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they employed in Speech. By being reduced L E C T. to this fimplicity, the art of Writing was brought to its highest state of perfection; and, in this state, we now enjoy it in all the countries of Europe.

To whom we are indebted for this sublime and refined discovery, does not appear. Concealed by the darkness of remote antiquity, the great inventor is deprived of those honours which would ftill be paid to his memory, by all the lovers of knowledge and learning. It appears from the books which Mofes has written, that, among the Jews, and probably among the Egyptians, letters had been invented prior to his age. The universal tradition among the antients is, that they were first imported into Greece by Cadmus the Phoenician; who, according to the common system of chronology, was contemporary with Joshua; according to Sir Isaac Newton's system, contemporary with King David. As the Phænicians are not known to have been the inventors of any art or science, though, by means of their extensive commerce, they propagated the discoveries made by other nations, the most probable and natural account of the origin of alphabetical characters is, that they took rise in Egypt, the first civilized kingdom of which we have any authentic accounts, and the great source of arts and polity among the antients.

In

M4

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L ECT. In that country, the favourite study of hiero

glyphical characters, had directed much attention to the art of Writing. Their hieroglyphics are known to have been intermixed with abbreviated symbols, and arbitrary marks; whence, at last, they caught the idea of contriving marks, not for things merely, but for sounds. Accordingly, Plato (in Præedro) expressly attributes the invention of letters to Theuth, the Egyptian, who is suppofed to have been the Herines, or Mercury, of the Greeks. Cadmus himself, though he passed from Phoenicia to Greece, yet is affirmed, by several of the antients, to have been originally of Thebes in Egypt. Most probably, Moses carried with him the Egyptian letters into the land of Canaan; and there being adopted by the Phænicians, who inhabited part of that country, they were transmitted into Greece.

1

The alphabet which Cadmus brought into Greece was imperfect, and is said to have contained only sixteen letters. The rest were afterwards added, according as signs for proper sounds were found to be wanting. It is curious to observe, that the letters which we use at this day, can be traced back to this very alphabet of Cadmus. The Roman alphabet, which obtains with us, and with most of the European nations, is plainly formed on the Greek, with a few variations. And all learned

men

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men observe, that the Greek characters, espe- LECT. cially according to the manner in which they are formed in the oldest inscriptions, have a remarkable conformity with the Hebrew or Samaritan characters, which, it is agreed, are the same with the Phænician, or the alphabet of Cadmus. Invert the Greek characters from left to right, according to the Phænician and Hebrew manner of Writing, and they are nearly the same. Besides the conformity of figure, the names or denominations of the letters, alpha, beta, gamma, &c. and the order in which the letters are arranged, in all the several alphabets, Phænician, Hebrew, Greek, and Roman, agree so much, as amounts to a demonstration, that they were all derived originally from the same source. An invention so useful and simple, was greedily received by mankind, and propagated with speed and facility through 'many different nations.

The letters were, originally, written from the right hand towards the left ; that is, in a contrary order to what we now practise. This manner of Writing obtained among the Assyrians, Phoenicians, Arabians, and Hebrews; and from some very old inscriptions, appears to have obtained also among the Greeks. Afterwards, the Greeks adopted a new method, writing their lines alternately from the

right

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LECT, right to the left, and froin the left to the

right, which was called Boustrophedon; or, writing after the manner in which oxen plow the ground. Of this, several specimens still remain; particularly, the inscription on the famous Sigaan monument; and down to the days of Solon, the legislator of Athens, this continued to be the common method of Writing

At length, the motion from the left hand to the right being found more natural and commodious, the practice of Writing, in this direction, prevailed throughout all the countries of Europe.

WRITING was long a kind of engraving, Pillars, and tables of stone, were first employed for this purpose, and afterwards, plates of the fofter metals, such as lead. In proportion as Writing became more common, lighter and more portable substances were employed. The leaves, and the bark of certain trees, were used in some countries; and in others, tablets of wood, covered with a thin coat of soft wax, on which the impreslion was made with a stylus of iron. In later times, the hides of animals, properly prepared, and polished into parchment, were the most common materials. Our present method of writing on paper, is an invention of no greater antiquity than the fourteenth century

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Thus I have given some account of the LECT. Progress of these two great arts, Speech and Writing; by which men's thoughts are communicated, and the foundation laid for all knowledge and improvement. Let us conclude the subject, with comparing in a few words, spoken Language, and written Language ; or words uttered in our hearing, with words represented to the eye; where we shall find several advantages and disadvantages to be balanced on both sides.

The advantages of Writing above Speech are, that Writing is both a more extensive, and a more permanent method of communication. More extensive; as it is not confined within the narrow circle of those who hear our words, but, by means of written characters, we can send our thoughts abroad, and propagate them through the world; we can lift our voice, so as to speak to the most diftant regions of the earth. More permanent also; as it prolongs this voice to the most distant ages;

it gives us the means of recording our sentiments to futurity, and of perpetuating the instructive memory of paft transactions. It likewise affords this advantage to fuch as read, above such as hear, that, having the written characters be. fore their eyes, they can arrest the sense of the writer. They can pause, and revolve, and compare, at their leisure, one passage with an

other ;

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